If you’re anything like me you will have been fairly enraged over the last few days. Ever since Trump signed an executive order implementing a 120-day ban on refugees and a 90-day ban on travel of natives from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. Trump was making good on a campaign pledge, all in the name of security.
Trump has sought to normalise this travel ban by pointing to the Obama administration. He said in a statement, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”
Whilst there are some elements of truth in the fact that Obama had highlighted these seven countries as an area of concern when it came to terrorism, in this new administrative era of “alternative facts” we need to examine this further.
Firstly, Obama never implemented a ban. There is no mention of this. Case in point, ask any immigration advisor and you will be told that refugees don’t travel on visas. What the Obama administration did was conduct a review of vetting procedures of Iraqi citizens, following the arrest of two Iraqi citizens subsequently charged with terrorism offences in Kentucky, after it was discovered these two individuals who had been granted asylum had constructed roadside explosive devices in Iraq.
This led to the government re-examining the records of 58,000 Iraqis that had settle in America with extensive checks being applied to new refugees seeking asylum from Iraq. These changes did cause delays in the processing of applications, but there was no ban. Iraqi refugees continued to enter America month after month with no gaps in-between. The new processes also delayed the newly created SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas) for individuals who had helped the American military whilst they occupied Iraq.
Let’s return to Obama’s list of seven countries. Following the San Bernadino attacks, Obama signed an amendment to the Visa Waiver Programme – a programme which allows visa free travel between the United States and other listed countries and vice versa. This amendment removed the visa-free travel of dual nationals from Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria, and also added three more to the list: Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It required a small percentage of people to gain a visa first before travel. Again, it wasn’t a ban.
Now I get it: _I have often said that the principle role of the state is to protect its citizens. I am not privy to any intelligence that the Americans or anyone else has unless it’s in the press. However this travel ban is a unique and dangerous move. A move that was drafted by White House officials, with no consultation with the Justice Department or Homeland Security, leading to great confusion about who is eligible to enter the U.S. All in the name of protecting America from “fundamental Islamist extremists”. Statisticians have been hard at work and have concluded the following based on 10 year averages:
The number of Americans killed by Islamic Jihadist immigrants a year? 2.
The number of Americans killed by armed toddlers annually? 21.
The number of Americans killed by lawnmowers annually? 69.
The number of Americans killed by falling out of bed annually? 737.
The number of Americans killed by being shot by another American annually? 11,737.
Whilst I accept there is a low-risk threat, Trump is using a policy of division to rule – a policy of fear and scapegoating. It’s this attack on Islamic countries that plays right into the hands of extremist groups like Daesh and al-Qaeda who have welcomed the ban as proof that America is at war with the Islamic world and could be used to fuel anti-American, anti-Western sentiments once more.
Ignoring the politics of such a policy, we can’t ignore that it is disgraceful to judge a group of people based on the acts of a tiny minority of extremists within that group. It is disgraceful that Trump has branded all citizens of the seven Islamic countries terrorists, or likely terrorists. Not only this but America is turning its back on those who have less than nothing: refugees, some from countries afflicted by wars and division in part caused by America.
Quite frankly, I don’t care that it is – nor do I think it will remain – a temporary ban. Trump already believes it is working. What is to stop him signing another executive order at the end of the 90 days? On Inauguration Day, Trump pledged to give power back to the people – what he’s doing is petrifying people first.
I applaud the lawyers who volunteered at the airports to aid those entering the country. I applaud the world leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel who called Trump to “school him” on the Geneva Convention on refugees, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau who has said Canada will welcome refugees and Green Card-carrying immigrants who are now shut out of America.
Trump’s travel ban is indefensible. It targets the most vulnerable. It targets a religion, regardless of how many times he claims it’s not a ban on Muslims. The fact that he signed the executive order on Holocaust Memorial Day should send a shiver down our spines as we see a religious discriminatory policy enacted once again – blind to the past staring him in the face. America and Europe face a greater threat from home-grown terrorists, who are recruited through extremist networks. America’s worst massacre took place at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando and was carried out by a home-grown terrorist. The Paris terror attacks were carried out predominantly by French and Belgian citizens with two Iraqi nationals. Norway’s most notorious terror attack was carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, a home-grown terrorist who attacked his fellow Norwegian nationals to protest against Islam.
I take heart from those who are willing to stand up to hate in whatever way they can – be it on social media, through protesting or by contacting elected representatives. It is heart-warming to see this global resistance to hateful, harmful policies. What’s concerning is that those who wish to lessen the impact of such a policy dismiss it as an American issue, dismiss it as a security measure or worse dismiss it as a non-issue. Some argue that it was a campaign pledge of Trump’s and it’s what the country voted for. That doesn’t make it any better.
I don’t object because I’m a soft lefty liberal. (So what if I am by the way.) I object because it’s not justified; it’s not humane. Division, fear and hatred are not concepts I wish to see promoted by our governments.